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“Novels are the biggest story bank we have”

Ashwin Sanghi is the author of bestselling books like The Rozabal Line, The Krishna Key and Chanakya’s Chant. Recently, Disney UTV bought the rights of Chanakya’s Chant, which will now be translated into celluloid.

Background

I had always been a voracious reader because of my grandfather. He was an avid collector of books and would share a book with me every week. However, I did not know that I would ever sit down to write a book. Almost ten years after joining business full time, I visited Srinagar. The town has a tomb in the old quarter, dating back to 112 AD. I was fascinated by this incredible story and spent the next 18 months reading everything about the subject that I could lay my hands on. All that while, I had no idea it would evolve into a book. At the end of this hectic research period, I had mountains of information swimming inside my head and my wife suggested that I put it down on paper. I didn’t know it then but my journey into the world of writing had begun.

On Rejection

I was rejected repeatedly by the publishing industry. I had to self-publish that first novel, The Rozabal Line, because there were no publishers left for me to approach! I actively blogged, Tweeted and networked to get people to read the book. Luckily for me, a copy of my self-published novel was purchased by the then CEO of Landmark Bookstores, which is a sister concern of my publisher, Westland. It was the lucky break I had been waiting for.

On Chanakya’s Chant

It’s not important from a writing perspective but it does have spin-off benefits in the marketing and sales of one’s title. I believe that when one is writing a novel, one should remain true to the art form of novel writing and not allow it to stray into the realm of screenplay. Similarly, when adapting a novel for film, one should stay true to the needs of celluloid. I like to think of myself as a storyteller rather than a writer. If one is a storyteller, then one should look at every single way a story can be narrated – vernacular translations, movies, TV series, video games, graphic novels or comic books. The medium becomes irrelevant, only getting the story to be understood by yet another segment of consumers becomes important.

On Disney UTV

The Disney UTV team consists of a bunch of professionals who are dedicated to producing quality films, and I am fortunate that they have chosen to make this film. Scripting Chanakya’s Chant for Bollywood is a challenge because the story is set in two separate time periods. Balancing aesthetic flavour of the historical story with the objective of commercial success is the key challenge, and this was my only concern when we decided to strike a deal.

On Not Writing The Screenplay

Most authors tend to be in love with every scene that they put into their novels. This means they are disinclined to allow deviations from the original story. I have watched great films like The Godfather, which was based on a Mario Puzo novel that wasn’t outstanding. I have also seen films like the Da Vinci Code, which was rather mediocre compared to the original Dan Brown novel. I am practical enough to realise that a good book does not always make a great movie. The adaptation and approach in conversion is key and that is an art much better understood by others.

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